baking with kafka

July Book Reviews by Maia Kobabe

Playing catch-up here…

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Fantasy used to be my bread and butter genre. In high school I’d barely pick up a book unless it had a dragon, elf, wizard, witch or sword on the cover. At a certain point I got somewhat burned out on the genre after too many books that felt like blatant Tolkien imitations. This book was a gift from a friend and I opened it a little uncertainly. Rather than a novel, I found this book is actually a collection of linked short stories each telling of one adventure of Geralt, a traveling monster-slayer. The author has a clear love of classic fairy tales- in one of the stories Geralt stumbles into a situation reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, while in another he encounters a Snow White. Almost invariably the original hero of the fairy tale is in this re-telling the monster. Not all of the deadly beasts are familiar however- interwoven are creatures from Polish and Russian folk tradition which add an intriguing eerie strangeness. This book is the first in a long series and I hope to read more.

Sister Outside by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde had the kind of mind and talent that only appears once or twice in a generation. I started this collection of essays directly after finishing Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and every page blew me away. I started with a library book but half way through had to go out and buy a copy because I wanted to be able to underline, circle passages, write notes and dozens of exclamation points. I can tell this is a text I will be returning to many times, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

A fast-paced coming of age comic in the vein of Raina Telgemeier. Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend Nicole to watch a roller derby game in a rink in Portland and Astrid immediately falls in love. Her best friend, not so much. Astrid signs up for a roller derby summer camp and discovers how much work it is to master a tough, dangerous sport. Meanwhile she begins to feel abandoned by Nicole who chose to attend a Dance camp instead. What starts as a story of rivalry becomes instead a tale of how people sometimes grow apart as their interests change and mature.

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J Georges

An emotional story of a decade long friendship between the author and a prickly, defensive, badly-behaved and demanding dog. Nicole adopted Beija at 17, and they were companions through many huge life changes. Nicole moved with her first love half way across the country to Portland, OR, began a career as an indie cartoonist, broke up, came out as a lesbian and discovered a shattering family secret. All the while Beija was was by her side, teaching her both how to show love and how to set up personal boundaries. Moved me to unexpected tears.

Shade the Changing Girl vol 1 by Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone

Loma Shade is a bird-like native of Meta, a distant planet with a lingering interest in the scraps of nostalgic Earth culture they’ve collected. Shade uses her boyfriend’s position as a security guard at a museum of Earth objects to steal the Madness Vest. She uses this to (somehow) transmit her soul to Earth, where she inhabits the body of a 16 year old girl, Megan. Megan has been lying in a coma after nearly drowning at a wild party with her swim team. Only her boyfriend Wes is happy about her surprise recovery- the rest of the team, and even Megan’s parents, fear and resent her. Shade struggles to understand life as an Earth high school student even as she struggles to resist the raw Madness that swirls from her transport, the Vest. This book is part of the larger Young Animals series from DC, but I read and enjoyed it as a stand-alone.

Tales of Ancient Persia by Barbara Leonie Picard

A solid introduction to Persian myths, from the pre-Islamic era. It follows the rein of many kings through generations of struggles with the neighboring empires of Turan and Rome. Highlighted are tales of Rustem, the renown hero who fought demons, dragons and many ferocious battles.

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

A heartbreakingly honest story of isolation, identity, depression and mental-health. The author overcame years of destructive behavior before she was able to come out to herself and begin to find freedom and a sexual life as an adult.

Night’s Dominion vol 1 by Ted Naifeh

This story begins with a classic D&D set up… a thief, an assassin, a mage and a cleric meet in a tavern to hear about a job offer from a mysterious stranger. But what this story actually offers is a D&D flavored superhero team battling for the soul of a city. An army of undead, a corrupt government and a Batman-verses-Catwoman like rivalry unfolds over tiled rooftops, cobbled streets and in caverns deep under the ground.

Baking With Kafka by Tom Gould

I am endlessly impressed with the contents of Tom Gould’s brain. Each strip in this collection is funnier than the last. The stand-alone comics range over subjects from book hording, time-travel, zombie apocalypses, what Charles Dickens would do in the modern era, alternate titles for Moby Dick and of course Kafka’s cooking show. Hilarious and delightful.

Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

An Eisner nominated short comic about race which should have won the award. Unflinching and timely.